President Obama Delivers Remarks on Education

The President:
Hello, Bulldogs! (applause) Good to see you guys. How’s everybody doing? You all look good. You look good. (applause) Hey! How’s everybody? Well, it is so nice
to see you guys. Everybody have
a seat, though. Have a seat. I know you’ve been
waiting here a while. Good thing you all had
your phones with you. (applause) As the father of two teenage
daughters, I know the whole time you were just like,
“And then he said — girl, I couldn’t believe it.” (laughter) Anyway, it’s so
good to see you. (applause) A couple of people I
want to acknowledge. First of all, I want to
thank our Secretary of Education, who has done
outstanding work, John King is in the house. (applause) And then, my great friend
and former Education Secretary and multiple
winner of the three-on-three contest, as well as at the
NBA All-Star Game — he can ball — Arne Duncan. (applause) We’ve got your mayor;
Muriel Bowser is here. Give her a big
round of applause. (applause) Your representative,
Eleanor Holmes Norton. (applause) And we are so grateful not
only for their service to the country, but the amazing
work they’re doing with their philanthropic work and
America’s Promise, Colin and Alma Powell. (applause) So, by now you’ve settled
into the new year. Right? Adjusted to classes. You’re preparing
for Spirit Week. (applause) Learning how to
ballroom dance. (laughter) I remember having
to do that. Getting the nerve to text
that cute girl or boy in your English class. (laughter) I don’t remember that;
we did not have texts. We had to send little notes. And then we used to actually
have to go up to somebody if we liked them
and talk to them. So that may happen
to you someday. (laughter) Seniors are looking at
colleges, taking tests, filling out all the forms. (applause) Malia just went through
this, so I know how tough this is for you and
for the parents. But as I’m winding down
my presidency — I was so impressed with Banneker the
last time I was here in 2011 that I wanted to come back – (applause) — because you’re an example
of a school that’s doing things the right way. And I believe that if you’re
going to be able to do whatever you want to do in
your lives — if you want to become a teacher, or a
doctor, or start a business, or develop the next great
app, or be President — then you’ve got to have
great education. We live in a global economy. And when you graduate,
you’re no longer going to be competing just with somebody
here in D.C. for a great job. You’re competing with
somebody on the other side of the world, in China or in
India, because jobs can go wherever they want because
of the Internet and because of technology. And the best jobs are going
to go to the people who are the best educated — whether
in India or China, or anywhere in the world. So when I took office almost
eight years ago, we knew that our education system
was falling short when it came to preparing young
people like you for that reality. Our public schools had been
the envy of the world, but the world caught up. And we started getting
outpaced when it came to math and science education. And African American and
Latino students, in part because of the legacy of
discrimination, too often lagged behind our white
classmates — something called the achievement gap
that, by one estimate, costs us hundreds of billions
of dollars a year. And we were behind other
developed countries when it came to the number of young
people who were getting a higher education. So I said, when I first came
into office, by 2020 I want us to be number one again. I want us to be number
one across the board. So we got to work, making
real changes to improve the chances for all of our
young people, from the time they’re born all the way
through until they got a career. And the good news is that
we’ve made real progress. So I just wanted to talk to
you about the progress we’ve made, because you are the
reason we’ve made progress — some outstanding young
people all across the country. We recently learned that
America’s high school graduation rate went up to
83 percent, which is the highest on record. That’s good news. (applause) More African American
and Latino students are graduating than ever before. (applause) Right here in D.C., in just
five years, the graduation rate in the District of
Columbia public schools went from just 53 percent
to 69 percent. (applause) So D.C.’s graduation rates
grew faster than any other place in the country this
year — this past year. That’s something to
be really proud of. (applause) Now, of course, here at
Banneker, you graduated 100 percent of your
seniors last year. (applause) One hundred percent. It’s been a while since I
did math, but 100 percent is good. (laughter) You can’t do
better than that. So what all these numbers
mean is that more schools across D.C. and across the
country are starting to catch up to what you guys
are doing here, at this school. Now, some of the changes we
made were hard, and some of them were controversial. We expected more from our
teachers and our students. But the hard work that
people have put in across the country has
started to pay off. And I just want to talk to
you a little bit about some of the things that we did. It starts with our
youngest learners. High-quality early education
is one of the best investments we can make,
which is why we’ve added over 60,000 children
to Head Start. We called for high-quality
preschool for every four-year-old in America. And when I took office, only
38 states offered access to state-funded preschool. Today, it’s up to 46. We’re trying to get those
last holdouts to do the right thing. And, by the way, the
District of Columbia leads the nation with the highest
share of children — nearly 9 out of 10 — in
high-quality preschool. And that’s a big
achievement. (applause) We launched then a
competition called Race to the Top, which inspired
states to set higher, better standards so that we could
out-teach and out-compete other nations, and make
sure that we’ve got high expectations for
our students. D.C. was one of the winners
of this competition. It upgraded standards,
upgraded curriculum, worked to help teachers
build their skills. And that, in part, is why
D.C. has done so well. We realized that in today’s
world, when you all have a computer in your pocket in
those phones, then you need to learn not just how to use
a phone, you need to learn computer science. So we’re working with
private and philanthropic partners to bring high
schools into the 21st century and give you a more
personalized and real-world experience. We’re bringing in high-speed
internet into schools and libraries, reaching 20
million more students and helping teachers with
digital learning. And coding isn’t, by the
way, just for boys in Silicon Valley, so we’re
investing more in getting girls and young women and
young people of color and low-income students into
science and engineering and technology and math. (applause) And because we know that
nothing is more important than a great teacher —
and you’ve got some great teachers here, as well as a
great principal at Banneker — (applause) — we have
focused on preparing and developing and supporting
and rewarding excellent educators. You all know how
hard they work. They stay up late grading
your assignments. That’s why you got all those
marks all over your papers. They pull sometimes money
out of their own pockets to make that lesson
extra special. And I promise you, the
teachers here and the teachers around the country,
they’re not doing it for the pay — because teachers,
unfortunately, still aren’t paid as much as
they should be. They’re not doing
it for the glory. They’re doing it because
they love you, and they believe in you, and they
want to help you succeed. So teachers deserve more
than just our gratitude — they deserve our
full support. And we’ve got to make their
lives easier, which is why we enacted a law to fix No
Child Left Behind, which gives teachers more
flexibility to spend more time teaching creatively
than just spending all their time teaching to a test. Give your teachers a
big round of applause. (applause) They deserve it. So we’ve made real progress,
but here’s the thing — and I think all of you know this
because you go to this great school — a high school
education these days is not enough. By 2020, two out of three
job openings require some form of higher education. Now, that doesn’t always
mean a four-year college degree, but it does mean —
whether it’s a four-year university, or a community
college, or some sort of training program — you’ve
got to get a little bit more than just what you’re
getting in high school. It used to be that a high
school job might be enough because you could go into a
factory or even go into an office and just do some
repetitive work, and if you were willing to work hard
you could make a decent living. But the problem is
repetitive work now is done by machines. And that’s just going to
be more and more true. So in order for you to
succeed in the marketplace, you’ve got to be able to
think creatively; you’ve got to be able to work with a
team; you’ve got to be able to work with a machine and
figure out how to make it tailored for the specific
requirements of your business and your job. All those things require
some more sophisticated thinking than just sitting
there and just doing the same thing over
and over again. And that’s why you’ve got to
have more than just a high school education. And if you doubt that, I
just want to give you some statistics. Compared to a high school
diploma, just getting a degree from a two-year
school, going to a community college and getting an
associate’s degree could earn you more than $300,000
over the course of your lifetime. And a four-year degree earns
you a million dollars more than if you just had
a high school degree. Think about that. A million dollars —
that’s real money. So one of the things that
we’re trying to do is to make it easier for you
to access free money for college — to figure out how
you can pay for your college without having a
mountain of debt. And the key thing, as you
know here at Banneker, but I want all the students around
the country to do this — and Michelle and I and
others have been really emphasizing this — is to
fill out your FAFSA, the Free Application for
Federal Student Aid. How many people — how many
seniors here have already filled out their
FAFSA forms? (applause) All right. How many seniors here have
not filled out their FAFSA forms? Fess up now. (laughter) You sure? All right, I just
want to make sure now. And, juniors, you can
start getting ready now. Because what the FAFSA
does is it puts you in the running for scholarships,
grants, loans, work-study jobs, all to help
you pay for college. And we’ve made it
simpler than ever. And it’s available right now
at — And since this is one of the
most important investments of your life, next year’s
FAFSA is also going to direct you to something we
created, called our College Scorecard. Now, here’s what this is. It gives you comprehensive
information on every college in America. Now, some of you who have
started applying for colleges, you know about
these college rankings, right? It’s like, oh, this
is the best school. And some of that information
is useful; some of it not so much. But unlike traditional
rankings that focus on which school has the fanciest
dorm or the nicest football stadiums, or is the most
expensive or the most exclusive, what our College
Scorecard does is it focuses on some of the things that
really matter for your future. Things like how many
students actually graduate from the school — because
it’s not enough just to enroll in college; you’ve
got to graduate from college. How much money do
their alumni earn? What percentage of their
students can pay back their loans? And what we’ve done is we’ve
worked with companies like Google to put this
information right at your fingertips. So for a decision this
important, we want you to be able to comparison shop to
figure out how do you get the best value for your
money, just like if you were buying something on Amazon. If you were buying a car or
you’re buying a phone or you’re buying anything,
especially if it’s a pretty big purchase, you want to
know ahead of time, is this legit. And what this does is makes
you think about what your options are. Now, you’ve got some
great counselors here. Obviously, you should
work with them. But not every student may
be going to a school like Banneker that has as many
good counselors to think about their
college education. And using this College
Scorecard is going to be helpful for them to do a
little comparison shopping. Because you don’t want to go
to the school just because it’s the closest one, and
it turns out it’s more expensive and doesn’t do as
good of a job as if you were willing to maybe travel
someplace else, and it turns out that you could get the
financial aid you need to go to a school that’s more
suited toward your needs. So we also reformed, by
the way, the student loan system. When I came into office,
you had tens of billions of dollars that were going
to big banks, serving as middlemen for your
student loans. We said, well, let’s
cut out the banks. Let’s give the money
directly to the students so they can afford college
and we can make the loans cheaper, and we can
expand Pell grants. And now, what we’re trying
to do is to push to make two years of community college
free for every responsible student all across
the country. All across the country. (applause) And we’re starting to
work with colleges and universities around the
country to bring down the cost of college so that at
the end of four years of college you’re not saddled
with a whole bunch of debt — because nobody should
be priced out of a higher education. (applause) So bottom line is: higher
graduation rates, higher college attendance rates,
more money for Pell grants and work to make sure that
the interest rate on student loans haven’t gone up;
working to expand early childhood education and
preschool; continuing to watch and work with states
as they try to implement reforms to make K-12 better;
holding colleges more accountable for giving
information so that students can make good decisions. We’ve made a
lot of progress. We have made a lot of
progress in terms of making sure that young people
across the country get the kind of great education
that you’re getting here at Banneker. And I am really proud of
what we’ve accomplished. I’m proud of what the
District of Columbia has accomplished. But I just want to be honest
with you: We’ve still got more work to do. So as I go, I’m giving you
kind of a final report card, transcript on what more
we’ve got to get done. There are still too many
states that are cutting back on public education. And part of the reason
tuition is going up is because states aren’t
putting as much money into state education,
universities, community colleges as they used to. That’s why, if you’re 18, by
the way, you’ve got to vote to make sure that the folks
who represent you actually deliver. (applause) We’ve still got too many
states that have not really worked in a serious way to
raise standards and improve performance. In too many school
districts, we still have schools that, despite the
heroic efforts of a lot of great teachers, are not
fully preparing our kids for success because they just
don’t have the resources to do it or the
structure to do it. We’ve still got too many
high schools where a third of their students do not
earn their diplomas on time. For too many students in
America, zip code still determines how
far they’ll go. And that’s not acceptable. Some of you probably have
friends or family who are just as smart or talented or
as capable as you, but they didn’t have the same support
or the right opportunities or didn’t get in the right
school, and so now don’t have the same
shot at success. Am I right? Because I know that’s
true in our family. Michelle and I, we’ve got
cousins and friends who we’ve known since they were
shorties, little kids – (laughter) — and they — we know how
smart they are because they were just as smart as we
were, but just the luck of the draw was they didn’t get
the same chance as we did. And that’s not right. So that’s why I started
something called My Brother’s Keeper initiative,
because what we want to do is help more young people,
especially kids of color, get mentorships and the
resources and the guidance they need to succeed. And I’m going to stay
involved with that even after I’m done
being President. (applause) Because we all have a part
to play in making sure every single child has every
single opportunity to achieve his or her dreams. That’s what Banneker
is all about. That’s what you can see
in somebody like Ifunaya. I mean, that’s an incredible
young lady who’s going to succeed because she has
an incredible school in addition to an
incredible family. (applause) And so we’re so
proud of her. There’s another person I
want to just call out — Amari McDuffie. Where’s Amari? Where’s Amari? There she is right
there, right in front. (applause) So, hey, Amari. I’m going to talk
about you for a second. (laughter) So Amari was born with a
heart and a lung condition. And sometimes she had to
miss a lot of school because of her illness. And you know, Banneker is a
pretty rigorous school, so she was worried about
staying on top of her work. But everybody in this family
rallied around her and made sure she was keeping up. Her history teacher,
Mr. Goldfarb — where’s Mr. Goldfarb? (applause) Is he here or did
he cut assembly? (laughter) So Mr. Goldfarb came to
visit her when Amari was in the hospital for weeks,
brought a card from the whole class. And so Amari, she was
talking about the support everybody here gave her, and
she said, “I believed in myself because my
teachers believed in me.” And that’s the kind of
community that we want in every school — where you’re
looking out for each other and you’re taking
care of one another. And so now Amari plans to
be a doctor so she can help kids who had
illnesses like hers. And that’s what’s possible – (applause) — that’s what’s possible
when we’re all committed to each other’s success; when
we understand that no matter what you look like, where
you come from, what faith you are, whether you’re a
boy or a girl — that you should have great
opportunities to succeed. And that requires you
to put effort into it. Michelle and I talk a lot
because we travel around the world and sometimes we
forget that there are places around the world where
people have so little but the kids are so hungry
for an education. And they don’t even have an
actual roof over their head in some of their schools. And so even if you’re really
poor in this country, you can succeed if you want to
invest in the teachers and the community, and everybody
raises standards and believes in each other. And that’s what we want all
of America to believe, in every kid — because there’s
magic in each and every one of you. And we just have to help you
unleash it and nurture it and realize it. And, by the way, it’s
because of young people like you that I leave the
presidency never more optimistic than I am right
now, because I’ve met so many young people around the
country whose energy, and excitement, and how you
treat each other, with respect. That gives me a lot of
confidence, a lot of faith for our country. So I know you guys are going
to keep on working hard. You’re going to keep making
our communities proud. If us adults do our part and
we stay focused on making sure every school is as
great as this one, and that every young person has those
same opportunities, and everybody has a teacher like
Mr. Goldfarb looking out for them, I’ve got no doubt that
we’re going to continue to build a country where
everybody has the chance to make of their lives
what they will. And that’s what
America is all about. All right. Proud of you, Bulldogs. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. Fill out those FAFSA forms! Thank you. (applause)

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